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Positive Thinking

By: Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Hurray! After years ‑ indeed decades, of being troubled by Rashi’s interpretation ‑  we were privileged to gain an insight that resolves my issue.

In the very beginning of the parasha Rashi interprets “These are the children of Noach, Noach was a perfect tzaddik in his generations.” There is a polemic regarding in his generations. Some of the sages interpret it favorably, if Noach was righteous in his corrupt generation, how much more so would he have been righteous in a generation of righteous individuals. Others interpret this critically; he was only righteous in his generation. However, had he lived in a generation of Avraham he would have been insignificant.

What always troubled me, from the time I was a little boy, is why interpret critically if there is equal reason to interpret positively?

Finally last year I read Rashi a little more carefully (always a wise policy) and discovered what I had been missing all these years. Rashi’s precise words are, יש מרבותנו דורשים אותו לשבח “Some of our sages interpret positively…” and the contrary opinion is presented as ויש שדורשים אותו לגנאי  “Others interpret it negatively…”

It was the sages, our Rabbis, who aligned themselves with the positive approach; and it was the “others” who preferred to interpret negatively. So here is a signpost for life. Whenever you have a choice whether to interpret positively or negatively – and there is no compelling factor in either direction – remember that the Rabbis would favor the positive approach.

Shabbat Shalom




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